California Was Once a Different World - The Valley Life

This is from a very eloquent dream last night, but the words are gone.  Anyway, I will try to get some of the general idea . . .

California was once a different world . . .

The valleys.  The poor valleys.  Nobody sings their praises anymore.  The Indians settled there for the water—the deep clean rivers rich with every delectable thing, and a banquet when the hordes of salmon came crowding up to spawn; the marshes that filled up in winter with clamoring myriads of geese and ducks, swans and cranes; the valleys where the elk were, the antelope, and deer in herds, and always squirrels—ground squirrels—and gophers!  Yum!  And rabbits—cottontails and jack rabbits—bounding off in all directions.  And grasshoppers to dry and fry.  And every kind of flower to gladden the heart in spring, making seeds to gladden the palate all year.  And the clover—twenty kinds of salad fit to all tastes, and salad to the eye, lush, bursting with blossom.  And bulbs and tubers almost too many to name—onion and potato and ground-nut for the digging.  The good life, the more abundant life, The Valley Life.

All you would think there is of noble grandeur in nature is the forests and the high mountains, maybe the deserts, certainly the ocean.  But the valleys are long forgotten . . . It was not always that way.  The Valley Indians counted themselves blessed, the wealthiest, the fattest.  The farmers who came after all went straight to the valleys, and then the silicon-farmers, all to mine the wealth of valleys.

And so too did the gringo and the spaniard, farmer and cattleman, all sought out valley land, where the feed was lush and the soil deep, rich, and black.  Their vision was limited, but they knew enough to take the valley land. 

Only—they didn’t take what it gave, instead they set it to work, shackled it, made it a slave—the only way they knew to live back home on the mean streets of Europe.

Take, conquer, enslave, fence, compete, dominate.

Because of what our ancestors did to the valleys, we see them as second-rate, as dreary sacrifice lands, and delude ourselves that “native” and “wildlife” are things of the mountains and the forests.  But even now, anyone who pays attention can tell you there are still more birds in the valleys than in the “wilderness”, way more.  Even ruined they are still richer than the highlands.

Ankle-high sea of dazzling gold, pink, white, purple, green, each tiny flower vibrating at the slightest hint of a breeze, or bouncing under the takeoffs and landings of its pollinator—a great dance of insects as multicolored and multishaped as the flowers they dance over.  A great panorama.  Vast and awe-inspiring and still . . . and silent . . . Silent, that is, if you are used to cars and machinery and boom boxes.  Alive with songs if you tune your ear a little more sensitively:  the far-off silver flutings of meadowlarks, the faint, delicate, high-pitched twitterings of horned larks, the hum of a hundred kinds of bees, and behind it all a kind of subliminal heartbeat, the coordinated tuneful pulsing of a million singing crickets.  The whole earth an exquisite, giant woofer and tweeter.

Our predecessors can’t have been immune to it.  But before long a new generation came in, full of rhapsodizing about bringing in water from up north, and “making the desert bloom.”  Naïve children.  The desert was already blooming, a thousand times more lavishly than it ever has since.  The only things blooming in the valley now are cotton and chemicals and cash.  And when the sterile fields are left fallow, they bloom with burrs and stickers, and no more flowers.  Now we justify it all with “there weren’t nothin’ here but rabbits and sagebrush.”  We still, some of us, use words like “reclamation”.  Now, in the same arrogant spirit, a new generation is priding itself on inventing “restoration.”  

How will we ever be able to forgive ourselves for our imbecile, wanton,  Philistine disregard for priceless gifts, our idiotic, hell-for-leather ecocide, genocide, biocide, beautycide.  The “simple” people who preceded us here were worlds our superior in gratitude, in knowledge of these things that have real value.